Healthy Start vitamins: increasing accessibility for eligible families
Andrea Basu, Service Lead for Public Health Dietetics
Sarah Powell-Jones, Dietetic Assistant Practitioner
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
Healthy Start is a UK wide scheme supporting eligible pregnant women and families (with children under 4 years old) by providing weekly food and vitamin vouchers.
The Healthy Start vitamins provide folic acid and vitamin D which are recommended for supplementation in these key population groups.
Watch the video below to find out more:
Within Wales, the vitamins are typically distributed via local midwifery and health visiting teams however, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on access for many families, and presented an opportunity to explore additional points of access, particularly in supporting ongoing provision of the vitamins beyond the initial 8 week supply.
The principle aim was to increase accessibility to the Healthy Start vitamins for eligible families in the counties of Wrexham and Flintshire (BCUHB- East) by:
- Scoping the journey of eligible families to access the vitamins
- Clarifying local distribution arrangements
- Identifying possible solutions to improve access (and consequently uptake) of the vitamins
- Implementing solutions
- Cascading clear and consistent information to eligible families about how to access the vitamins in their community
- Identifying existing distribution arrangements for the vitamins, including who held responsibility for ordering, documenting, and reclaiming costs of the vitamins
- Establishing links with, and achieving ‘buy-in’ from community pharmacy to enable wider access to the vitamins in the community, at a time when their services were in demand and were being extended to support the pandemic
- Traditional promotional opportunities were hindered due to the COVID-19 lock-down. For example face to face contact with the public at local community groups, events, and within settings such as supermarkets. However every opportunity to utilise social media networks via BCUHB and established stakeholders was harnessed.
- Mapped ‘the journey’ for Healthy Start families to obtain the vitamins
- Identified shortfalls in current distribution and lack of availability for eligible families
- Increased access points for families in Wrexham and Flintshire counties- 12 pharmacies (6 in each county) now stock the vitamins. An audit of all community pharmacies at the outset of the project identified that none currently stocked the vitamins and several were not aware of the scheme and/ or wanted more information
- Produced a suite of stakeholder briefings, media posts, educational tools, promotional materials, and social media infographics to widely communicate to key stakeholders and eligible families, about the scheme and new points of access for the vitamins.
- Pharmacy staff across the 12 sites have increased awareness and knowledge of the scheme
- Audit uptake across participating pharmacies (July 2021)
- Pause/ reflect – do we need to extend our ‘test’ period to enable sufficient time to assess true impact on access/ uptake
- Evaluate the experiences of partnering pharmacies & opportunities to sustain provision/ extend across the 4 remaining North Wales counties (i.e. the entire BCUHB area)
- Share learning with fellow health boards across Wales
Our Exemplar Experience
Extremely positive! We have benefited immensely from the mentoring, networking, and range of learning events. The kudos of being a Bevan exemplar project has most definitely helped us to navigate through some of the challenges we’ve faced, and we believe it has helped us to achieve solutions more quickly than we would have otherwise.
Healthy Start Vitamins